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  1. Safe Use Initiative

FDA Physician Communication Project: Testing with Professional Societies

Performer: Summer Productions

Principal Investigator: Jonathan Lawhead

Project Duration: 9/21/14 - 9/21/16

Regulatory Science Challenge

FDA believes that clear and effective communications to healthcare professionals on the appropriate use of medical products can help to promote health and reduce harm as part of the FDA mission. Despite this emphasis, important questions exist about the effectiveness of current FDA communications in reaching its major stakeholders, especially physicians and pharmacists.

What is the extent of healthcare professional comprehension of FDA communications, and what are the barriers to effective communication? Is FDA communication with healthcare professionals keeping pace with rapidly evolving communications technology and new platforms for communication?

FDA seeks to identify and improve science-based approaches to developing clear and effective communications on the appropriate uses of regulated products, and to promote health and reduce harm through informed decision-making by consumers and healthcare professionals.

Project Description

The project was conducted in 3 phases.

During phase one, communications on various platforms were viewed by healthcare professionals (physicians and pharmacists). Communications were branded as being from FDA or a medical specialty society. Platforms included videos, print media, and an interactive website. Qualitative focus groups were conducted in major cities across the country.

During phase two, questions were refined for follow-up with participating healthcare professionals, based on initial focus group results, and additional focus groups were convened to obtain further information.

During phase three, all data were compiled and analyzed, and recommendations were developed to facilitate effective FDA communication to physicians going forward.

Project Goals

This project aimed to:

  • Help FDA understand its brand awareness among healthcare professionals
  • Enable FDA to understand how health care professionals access FDA information and what the preferred strategies are to receive regulatory and scientific information
  • Evaluate the effectiveness of information related to FDA and to drugs that health care professionals receive from the Agency
  • Develop recommendations for improving the strategies and platforms FDA uses to communicate to health care professionals

Project Results

The final report from the researchers to the FDA included the following results:

  • Physician participants were most likely to read communications from their specialty society. FDA branding carried authority with physician participants, but they questioned the relevance to their area of practice.
  • A majority of physician participants stated that they preferred email as the best way of receiving communications. A significant minority preferred short videos.
  • Focus group participants favored bulleted lists in written communications.
  • Physician participants were more likely to open an email if the subject line contained words such as “Warning,” “Update,” or “Summary.”
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